Morel Mushrooms in Iowa: Hunting a Springtime Delicacy

Posted by Stacy Brothers, Marketing & Bookkeeper at JAX | 05.17.2018

With warmer temperatures, soil conditions change and one result is the growth of the highly sought-after Morel mushroom. Morels have long been a springtime staple in Iowa, and as regular mushroom hunters will tell you, they are unpredictable, elusive, and entirely worth the hours spent hiking and searching for them.

Brett & Morel -- Jax Mercantile

Knowing when and where to look can greatly increase your odds of locating a batch of Morels. Weather-wise, mushrooms grow when it is consistently warm enough to allow the soil temperature to reach into the 50°s being the most optimal. A good rule of thumb is to do your searching during the two months when spring is at its peak, usually between late March and early May. If the nights are staying over 40°, the time is right. If there has been a rain, it's even better.  Mushrooms need moisture to grow.


Where to look is a whole other matter, considering most mushroom hunters are highly reluctant to share their mushroom collecting spots. Mushrooms are tree huggers, they like to grow near the roots; especially those of ash, elm, and apple trees. They like shady spots, trees that are in the process of dying, and they also like burn sites and areas that have been disrupted by water, such as an old flood plain.  


It is recommend that hunters carry a mesh bag for collecting. Morels are spread through the dispersal of spores, and the mesh bag will allow your collection to drop spores along the way, ensuring more mushrooms in the future.


Before you head out to forage, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, because you are heading into a woody area, do protect yourself against ticks by treating your clothing and body with a tick repellent. Also, allow the time to check for ticks after you hunt. These measures can help avoid the danger of Lyme Disease.


Poison ivy plants are another potential danger to be avoided. Also, taking the time to learn to properly identify a Morel will prevent any poisonous Morel look-alikes from getting into your bag. Another thing to consider is that you may be out for hours, potentially walking through some damp areas. It's important to wear adequate footwear.  You may even consider using a walking stick, and to make sure you make it back to where you started when venturing into a new area, bring along a compass or GPS.  


Morels sadly don't last long. In the best of weather conditions, they can survive up to two weeks before they naturally begin to decay. And, as mentioned earlier, a lack of moisture will have an adverse effect on the mushroom crop as well.


Whether you are a seasoned “shroomer” or a beginner, mushroom hunting is a fun and healthy outdoor activity for everyone. Proper preparation, weather conditions, and a walk in just the right spot might just net you a huge supply of delicious Morels.


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